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Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, GCVO, KCB (24 February 1837 – 17 August 1916), of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland, was a British diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters.
Freeman-Mitford was the son of Henry Reveley Mitford (1804–1883) of Exbury House, Exbury, Hampshire and the great-grandson of the historian William Mitford, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. While his paternal ancestors were landed gentry, whose holdings had once included Mitford Castle in Northumberland, his mother (Georgiana) Jemima was a daughter of the courtier the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham, with a noble ancestry through the earls of Beverley. His parents separated in 1840 when Redesdale was just three years old, and his mother remarried to a Mr. Molyneaux.
Entering the Foreign Office in 1858, Mitford was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Peking, he went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the exciting but difficult Meiji Restoration. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871), a book credited with making such classical Japanese tales as "The Forty-seven Ronin" first known to a wide Western public. He resigned from the diplomatic service in 1873.
Following the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, in 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the Emperor Meiji with the Order of the Garter. He was asked by courtiers there about Japanese ceremonies that had disappeared since 1868. He is one of the people credited with introducing Japanese knotweed to England.
From 1874 to 1886 Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved in the lengthy restoration of the Tower of London and in landscaping parts of Hyde Park such as "The Dell". From 1887, he was a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon between 1892 and 1895.
According to W. S. Gilbert, Mitford served as a consultant on Japanese culture to Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan during the development of their 1885 Savoy Opera The Mikado. A traditional Japanese song hummed by Mitford to Gilbert and Sullivan during a rehearsal was used in the opera for the march accompanying the Mikado's entrance.
In 1886, Mitford inherited the substantial country estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Earl of Redesdale. In accordance with the will he assumed by Royal licence the additional surname of Freeman. Appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire, he became a magistrate and took up farming and horse breeding. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron from 1889 to 1914. Redesdale was President of the Royal Photographic Society between 1910–1912.
He substantially rebuilt Batsford House beside Batsford in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic manorial style, but at such a cost that it had to be sold within a few years of his death. It was bought by Lord Dulverton and is still owned by his descendants.
During his time in Japan he was said to have fathered two children with a geisha. Later he was considered to be one of the possible fathers of Clementine Hozier (1885–1977), in the course of an affair with his wife's sister Blanche. Clementine married Winston Churchill in 1908.
In his closing years Lord Redesdale edited and wrote extensive and effusive introductions for two of Houston Stewart Chamberlain's books, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Immanuel Kant: A Study and Comparison with Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruno, Plato, and Descartes, both two volumes each, translated into English by John Lees, M.A., D.Litt., and published by John Lane at the Bodley Head, London, in 1910 and 1914 respectively.
Lord Redesdale married in 1874 Lady Clementina Gertrude Helen (1854–1932), the daughter of David Ogilvy, 10th Earl of Airlie by his spouse Blanche, the daughter of Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley. They had five sons and four daughters:
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